Kay '60 - Good for BG? Price?

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by Brad Easley, Aug 2, 2022.


  1. Brad Easley

    Brad Easley

    Nov 21, 2018
    Howdy! Long time electric bass player and forum member, but haven't ventured over to the DB side. I live in Arkansas. On electric bass I've played blues, country, rockabilly, rock, etc. since the 90s, I also play guitar and mandolin and dabble in bluegrass. I'm considering getting a DB for bluegrass. Locally, a gentleman is selling a 1960 Kay and asking for $2k. I just don't have much experience to go off of with this. I know Kays are a popular choice for BG DB. Is a 60 decent? Is 2k overpriced? Should I be on the look out for something else? Pictures attached.
     

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  2. Admiral Akbar

    Admiral Akbar

    Mar 12, 2013
    New York
    That looks like a Kay M-1. Very reasonably priced if it plays well and needs no major work. Looks like original fingerboard and tailpiece that has the “Kay” emblem. Also looks very glossy finish for a Kay(?)

    As with any DB purchase, ask when the last time was that the bass was set up by a professional DB luthier.
     
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  3. Brad Easley

    Brad Easley

    Nov 21, 2018
    Thanks for the input! I wondered about the finish too. I'll do a little more homework on it.
     
  4. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    Per the above, $2k isn't necessarily over or under priced. If it's solid that's a reasonable price. Has it been refinished? I've owned 3 Kays, and never had one with that kind of gloss.

    On your other question: buy the best bass you can for the amount of money you want to spend. Forget that you're playing bluegrass; the song doesn't know what bass you're playing, and no one in the audience cares. Lots of the best bluegrass bassists (traditional or progressive) play something other than a 60-year-old plywood instrument.

    Disclaimer: although I've been playing bluegrass for around 40 years now, I've never been a fan of what many call the traditional "bluegrass sound." Steel strings, low string height, punch and volume are important to me. With apologies, because I know many on the forum are tired of hearing me say that!
     
  5. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    You can think of Kay as the double-bass equivalent of old Chevys and Fords: Affordable, ubiquitous, having an army of proponents, and not built to go beyond 100,000 miles.

    That said: As @BobKay states, "If it's solid that's a reasonable price." It will get the job done, better than a Palatino or the like, but perhaps not as well as some of the better plywood basses.
     
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  6. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    Yes, it's an M-1, and the gloss finish is correct for the period.

    The current nearest alternative Kay basses for sale to you are in DFW, Nashville and St Louis, as far as I know.

    The price is about standard outside a specialty shop. If you've played the bass and you like it, it'll do the job for you for a good long time.
     
  7. Good deal if setup, healthy and not refinished.

    I own a 41 S-9, 50 C-1, and 53 M1B.
     
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  8. turf3

    turf3

    Sep 26, 2011
    Don't let yourself get too caught up in the myth that the "real bluegrass bass sound" is a muddy ill defined pitchless thump. That might have been what came across on 1940s recordings done in el cheapo studios with the minimum of equipment and bass players who were playing the instrument that just traveled 5000 miles strapped to the top of the car; but I really doubt that Bill Monroe, say, would have said "hey bass player, I can tell what notes you're playing too clearly, I just want a muddy thump instead".

    The good Kays I've played (just sitting in and playing someone else's instrument) have punched well above their weight. I haven't played a lousy Kay, though I'm sure they're out there. There are negatives as well, among them the difficulty of playing arco and the thin necks that may lead to fatigue if using standard left hand technique. I haven't experienced these things for myself but they're commonly discussed. While you may never plan to perform arco, I am a big fan of practicing arco for intonation and developing endurance.
     
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  9. Brad Easley

    Brad Easley

    Nov 21, 2018
    Thanks to all responders for their feedback!

    turf3 - I appreciate that excellent response. I'm definitely not seeking a "muddy ill defined pitchless thump". In theory, I'd love a DB that was versatile enough to cover Jazz as well as Bluegrass, but I'm trying to temper my expectations of what is available within my current or stretch budget. If there was a great playing and sounding versatile DB in the I dunno let's say 2-4k range, that would be ideal. I'm just not sure how to go about tracking that down in my area or within driving distance of NW Arkansas, which for the right deal could mean as far as KCMO, DFW, Memphis, Little Rock, Tulsa, OKC, Springfield MO, Wichita KS, probably STL. I know there are tons of options within the region. Just trying to simplify my search.
     
  10. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Oregon
    I've been beating the heck out of an older M-1 for 20 years. It was my second favorite sounding bass I tried at a double bass showroom in 1998 (though I now suspect new Spirocore strings had much to do with that). It's the most stable instrument I've ever used.
    YMMV. If it's in good shape, I can scarcely imagine a better way to take the double bass plunge.
     
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  11. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Yes, they are.
     
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  12. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    You owe it to yourself to visit KC Strings in Merriam, Kansas. The Krutz 100 (laminate bass) has a list price of $2500, and you'll probably find several of those in the store. If you buy one, you'll get a bass which is set up well (or they will set it up to your liking), and you'll be able to trade up for full value when and if you wish.

    I had a Kay in 1975, and I liked it. When it was destroyed in a band-bus accident, I inquired of my luthier/shopkeeper (Steve Mason of Lawrence, KS) whether I could get another Kay. He said yes, but advised me that I'd do better with a new German shop bass (Anton Schroetter). He was right - it was a lot better than the Kay.
     
  13. John Chambliss

    John Chambliss Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    It’s real important to find out when it was last checked-out by a Luthier. You might want to check with the bassists in the Little Rock Orchestra and possibly in Conway for someone who can help you try out basses.
     
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  14. John Chambliss

    John Chambliss Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    +1 to Andy’s post. Also, Barron Weir is the principal bassist with the Little Rock Symphony as well as a former employee of KC Strings. I would chat with him. Nice guy and wonderful player.
     
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  15. That bass looks like it’s been messed with. Those photos are terrible, but I’m pretty sure it’s been oversprayed with poly. Bad sign at any price, but $2k? Danger, Will Robinson!
     

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